By shopping Emmet
I love L. L. Bean.
On the rare (getting rarer) trips to Portland it is impossible to avoid the Freeport turnoff. Even if it is a weekend day and you know the place will be jammed with Mass. and New York tourists, you must stop for a visit. It’s kind of like a church, with better stuff.
There was a cartoon in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, when a woman admits sitting at the campfire that she really doesn’t like camping, but she loves the camping stuff at Beans. That’s me. I love the “stuff.”
Saturday’s visit was even better than usual. Months ago, I actually returned a Mag-Lite which had given up the ghost along with a windup radio which would no longer give me the emergency weather. (Like I need it.) I got an L. L. Bean gift card in the exchange. I got a few chamois shirts with the card at dramatically reduced prices (love that daughter.) I was left with $29.
That card was burning a hole in my chamois shirt pocket. I brought it with me everywhere, just in case I had a chance to use it. I was afraid that there was a statute of limitations and that credit would vanish.
Bean’s money is better than regular money.
On Saturday, we landed at the Bean store on the way to Portland and had plenty of time. Blue Eyes was, naturally happy to shop to her heart’s content. I was free with my $29 to explore the camping department. I bet I was there for an hour in total bliss. The first thing I saw was a rowboat display filled with the latest LED flashlights. I have never counted, but I must have at least 25 flashlights in the car, bedroom, backpack, and luggage. Blue Eyes and I had a run of false fire alarms in Boston hotels and I vowed never to have a naked, unilluminated bed stand again. Some people have guns by their bed. I stock up on flashlights.
The new lights are getting smaller and brighter. I like that.
But, no. I could not waste my $29 on another light. I toured the camping department and stopped at the plastic water bottle section. I don’t know why, but I always want another one. I must have 10. I moved on. Naturally the insulated coffee cups, getting fancier and fancier caught my eye. I decided that I couldn’t figure out how to open most of them and knew if I did that I would spill coffee all over my chest. I always have.
I moved on through the gadgets in the cooking section. I never cook in the woods any more, but that doesn’t mean the “stuff” is any less attractive. I would have bought another Coleman stove, but I already have two. I toyed with the cooking “toys”, and then moved on. I have no idea what it is about coolers. You can’t have enough coolers. I have soft and hard coolers, big and small. But I desperately wanted that red steel Coleman cooler guaranteed to keep ice for three days. (I have no explanation.) Then I looked at the price tag.
I moved on.
Naturally, Bean’s had a huge knife section. I stopped in my tracks. I have loved knives since we played Mumblety-peg or something like that in the West Roxbury dirt. I cannot remember the aim of the game, but you dropped your jackknife from your nose, your ears, and your shoulder. The knife was supposed to stick in the dirt as close to your sneaker foot as possible. I remember that much.
Ever since I woke up on a camping trip at Johnson’s Pond when everyone else had a knife and I didn’t, I have had a knife (or three) within arm’s reach. As soon as we got back to Greenville, I stopped in to the first camping knife store. Hadda have it. Like flashlights, you can’t have too many. I went through the glorious Leatherman display and carefully checked out each model. The only reason anyone allows David Grima into their house is that he always carries his trusted Leatherman. I checked each model: Micra, Crunch, Freestyle, Juice, Mut, and Sidekick. They had five blades, eight blades, ten Blades. They were all wonderful, of course. But I noted no matter how many blades there were, there was no corkscrew.
If you have ever been trapped in a South Carolina motel with a chilly bottle of Yellowtail and no corkscrew, you know how vital that implement can be. I moved on.
There in the glorious corner of the L. L. Bean camping department was the Holy Grail of camping and camping life…the Swiss Army Knives. One of the delightful red (naturally) models had a built-in sturdy corkscrew. Decision made. I marched to the register with my carefully chosen purchase, a very happy man. With my wonderful gift card, I bought the knife for $6.
What a great day.
As one philosopher (my favorite) once said, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”